Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Delicious Apple Cinnamon Rolls

To borrow a phrase from GOT, "Winter is coming", and around this time of the year I start getting cravings for things like apple pie, apple crumble, apple cakes... you see the pattern here right? Basically anything with apples. My need for all things apple got me thinking. What if I could combine two of my favorite things, apples and bread, to make apple cinnamon rolls!

I know I've said this before, on numerous occasions, but I'll say it again. There is nothing quite like the aroma of baking apples and cinnamon wafting through the house. And if you factor in the aroma of baking bread... its my idea of heaven. You cook with your nose as much as with your eyes. The sense of smell is so important and its probably one of the reasons I love to cook. The pure pleasure you get from having the mouth watering smell of good food filling your nostrils. That, and the joy you feel when things you make are polished up.

These rolls are a great breakfast treat. Make them a day ahead, and then enjoy them the following morning. I'm embarrassed to admit that I have often gone to bed looking forward to, and dreaming about enjoying these rolls for breakfast the next morning. What could be better than waking up, banging a roll in the micro for a couple of seconds and enjoying it with a nice, steaming cup of coffee. They are also great for a teatime snack, especially if you have friends visiting. They are a great way to get oohs and ahhs from them. 

Anyway Sunday was the day I ear marked for the experiment of my apple cinnamon rolls. All of us were at home so we could all enjoy some hot, yummy bread fresh out of the oven. (I kept my fingers crossed that the experiment would work, else I'd have a very grumpy hubby and UJ to deal with). The main experiment was with the bread recipe. A while back I had posted a recipe for cinnamon rolls which I had tried out. These were nice and rich, but I wasn't totally satisfied with the bread. It wasn't light and fluffy. I basically wanted a rich, slightly sweet bread that was also light and fluffy. A little tweaking was in order and I decided to try out some things of my own.  Isn't that the best part of cooking? Trying new things and experimenting? Sometimes meeting with success and at others, dealing with total disasters. 

Like the time I first attempted to make a pizza base at home. I followed Jamie Oliver's recipe which said pile the flour on the counter top, make a well in the center of the flour and pour your liquid in. Well I did exactly that, but for some reason the liquid yeast mixture decided to over flow and spill all over my counter, down the sides of my cabinets and all over the floor. What a DISASTER! and a total MESS for me to clean up! After a lot of cursing and ranting I did learn a valuable lesson. I'm no Jamie Oliver :-) And since that day, I've always done all preliminary mixing in a nice big bowl. No spills!

Luckily, this experiment was a success. The rolls turned out pretty darn good, even if I say so my self. They were rich, soft, a little sweet and still fluffy. And they disappeared pretty quickly. They are fine to keep overnight, but I would suggest storing them in the fridge if its for any longer (if they last that long!). 

The Bread

7 cups plain flour
3 tsp dried yeast
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar minus 1 tbsp
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract/essence
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp baking powder

The Filling

8 apples, peeled and chopped finely
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp clove powder
2 tbsp butter
Extra softened butter
Extra dark brown sugar
Extra cinnamon powder

In a large pan heat the milk with the sugar until the milk is just warm. To this add the butter, honey, olive oil and mix until the butter melts. When the mixture has cooled and is lukewarm, add the yeast and stir gently. Leave for about 15 minutes until the mixture appears frothy.

While the yeast is working its magic, sieve the flour.

Once the yeast has become all frothy, add the egg, vanilla, and baking powder and mix well, but do not whisk. Add the flour (I suggest you first add only six cups of flour and slowly add more if the mixture is too sticky to knead) to this and mix with a wooden spoon until a dough starts to form. Tip this out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a bowl that has been lightly greased, cover with a wet towel and leave it alone for about 2 hours, till it doubles.

While the dough is rising, place the chopped apples in a pan with the sugars, cinnamon, clove and 1 tbsp butter, cover and heat on a low flame until the apples have softened and browned. Remove the lid and heat until any liquid drys out. The mixture has to have absolutely no liquid. Let it cool. 

Once the dough had risen, tip it out onto the platform and divide into four parts. Roll each part into balls. Roll each individual ball out. Spread some softened butter onto the rolled out dough.

Like this.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. 

Evenly spread out your apple mixture and then sprinkle with cinnamon powder, dark brown sugar and sugar. 

It should look something like this.

Start rolling the dough like in this

Cut the roll like this

Place in a greased pan like this.

Cover with a wet towel and let it rise for about 20 minutes to half an hour. The rolls will puff up. Bake in the oven until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush top of rolls with butter and allow to cool. 

Repeat same process with other rolls. 

Hope you enjoy!

[All Images- Shalini Pereira]

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Fun Fridays- A Pitcher of Tamarind Iced Tea

The last few months have involved a lot of travelling, friends staying over, festivals and weddings, and it seems like things are finally getting back to normal.  So when Friday came around I thought to myself... ah! Friday... the promise of a nice chilled out weekend and blissful lazing around.  

So this Friday I thought we'd have a nice family night at home, enjoy some drinks, some nice food and basically catch up. For drinks I made my version of Iced Tamarind tea, a drink I once had at a restaurant in Haus Khaz Village, Delhi. I know, I know, you may say its Friday! Why not the 'good stuff'? ... add a little 'something special', but I have been trying to be 'good' of late, sort of detoxing (hope I'm not sounding too much like an alcoholic)  so I'm off the 'good stuff' for a while.

This ice cold tamarind tea is incredibly refreshing. I served it at the Onam dinner we had last Sunday and it went down like a treat! Its like a lemon iced tea with a kick of sour from the tamarind that is quite interesting and a nice palate cleanser if you're having a really rich meal. 

Along with the tamarind tea I made some homemade pita bread, hummus and some salad. Fresh, healthy and yummy.

Here's the recipe for the Tamarind Iced Tea

4 mugs water
1 level tsp green tea leaves
1 level tsp tea
2 tbsp Jaggery (palm sugar will also do)
1 tbsp tamarind
4 tbsp sugar (add more or less as per your taste)
1/2 tsp salt
a few lemon slices

Heat the water in a pan until bubbles just start to form... don't let it boil. As soon as this happens, remove from heat. Add the tea to this and cover. Leave to steep for about 5 minutes. Strain and remove tea leaves. Add the jaggery, sugar and the tamarind and leave till the mixture cools down to room temperature. With your hand squeeze the tamarind to remove all the pulp from the seeds. This may take a while. Finally strain the mixture being sure to squeeze out every last drop of the tamarind pulp through the strainer. Add the salt and freeze until it is a pulpy, icy mixture. Break up the icy mixture and pour into a pitcher. Add the lemon slices and some more ice cubes and enjoy!

p.s- I'll be putting up the pita bread and hummus recipe soon.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Khopoli House by SPASM Architects

This amazing hilltop residence in Maharashtra  is designed by SPASM Design Architects. Inspired by the dark tones of the rocky Basalt  this landscape, this concrete house seems to merge seamlessly with its surroundings. In fact it almost looks like an outcrop of hillside rock!

I'm not going into too many details about this beautiful piece of architecture, instead, I'll let the images speak for themselves. However I will say this much... its rare that a house, through both its architecture and interior, captures your attention, and excites you and calms you simultaneously with its almost serene elegance and simplicity.

Take a look...

[All images- Dezeen Magazine]

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Jeera (Cumin) Cookies

I recently got back from a holiday in Wayanad, Kerala. While there, I stayed at Vythiri Resort, which I must say is a lovely place if you want to get away from it all and really enjoy some peace and quiet. No TV, almost no internet and not the best network, so no annoying calls from work :)

One of my favorite experiences of the resort was afternoon tea, which was always accompanied by delicious goodies like cinnamon rolls, banana fritters and various yummy treats. One of the items they served was a sweet and savory puff pastry biscuit which I absolutely loved! Which gets me to the point of this post. Now I know I love cooking, but even I don't have the patience to make puff pastry. Besides I'm sure if I did make it myself, I would stop eating it once I see how much butter goes into it! 

But the taste of these tiny bites of happiness reminded me of a long forgotten favorite of mine- Jeera biscuits! These slightly sweet, slightly savory biscuits flavored with bits of jeera (cumin) are so nice with afternoon tea or coffee and would even be nice as a party snack, served with a spicy jam or chutney. 

Here's my recipe for Jeera cookies...

1 1/2 cups plain flour (maida)
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp roasted cumin seeds (jeera)
2 tbsp butter (cold & cubed)
1 tbsp ghee
1/4 cup cold milk
1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. 

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cumin. Add the cubed butter and mix with a fork until the mixture resembles  bread crumbs. (This can also be done in a food processor). Next, add the ghee. 

Mix the milk and vanilla together separately and add this milk mixture to the flour mixture slowly and bit by bit until the flour mixture comes together like a dough. Its okay if you don't use the entire milk mixture. Lightly knead the dough on a lightly floured surface and divide into four balls. Roll out each ball till about 6mm thick and cut into shapes using a cookie cutter. Place cookies on a tray lined with butter paper and chill in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Bake the chilled cookies for about 20 mins or until they just start to appear pale golden along the edges. Cool on a wire rack.

Best enjoyed with a nice cup of tea and a good book! 

[Image- All Things Nice]

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

My Latest Project

For the last 18 months I have been working on Govindam, a 4500 sq ft bungalow in Noida, and about a week ago I completed the photography of this site. This project, like any project I take on, ended up being a real labor of love- a site that tested my patience, made me want to pull out my hair in frustration, and where anything that could go wrong, did. But with a great team and wonderful clients, we managed to get things done and I am so proud of the results.

Originally I was simply going to post images of the site, but as I was nostalgically looking through all the pictures of the site that I clicked over the 18 month period, I thought it would be far more interesting to show the story of the site and its transformation from when my firm, SPDA, took on the project to the present. 

Here goes...

The Exterior

Clockwise- The site before we started work, our proposal for the exterior and the finished exterior

The Living Room

Clockwise- The original living room before work commenced, a conceptual 3-d of the space and finally, the living room as it looks today

The Dining Area



The Entertainment/ Family Room

[All images courtesy- SPDA]

You can see more images of this site here.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

A Great Night Out- Cocktails & Dreams Speakeasy

I've been AWOL for a while now... been busy and then finally managed to get a holiday! But I'm back now and so you'll be hearing from me a lot more. I've been meaning to do this post for a while now, but just haven't had the chance.

I'm a huge fan of Jazz. I like nothing more than to wind down my day with some Ella Fitzgerald or Dave Brubeck, and its great company on those nights when I'm getting dinner done. My love for Jazz means that I'm always on the lookout for places that have live Jazz in Gurgaon. I came across Cocktails & Dreams on the net and dragged the hubby there on one of our date nights. Its was a real hallelujah moment. I was hooked! 

Before I go any further, let me say that I don't normally review restaurants on All Things Nice but C&D Speakeasy really impressed me, hence the post. I am a fan- from the quirky entry, the guy who guides you to the bar area below, to the slightly grungy underground-style interiors, this place has a vibe totally in tune with its concept- a speakeasy bar reminiscent of the prohibitions days of  the 1920s'. It was a time when secret cocktail bars sprang up and bootleggers and rum-runners were in action!  

This is no fancy, place where you run into celebs, just a great place to hang out. Its a bartender's bar, and that is its USP. Add to that the great jazz music they play, as well as some great live jazz performances from established as well as young artists... can a girl as for more?

I have tiny confession to make... I also like this place because they know how to make a good boozy cocktail and never skimp on the hooch! My favorite is the classic Old Fashioned. 

Here are a few images to pique the interest...

[All Images Courtesy C&D Speakeasy]

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